Latecomer added to New Zealand flag designs after public pressure

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Wellington (dpa) – New Zealanders will have five designs to choose from for their new national flag, after public pressure led Thursday to a late addition to the shortlist.

Parliament passed urgent legislation to add the Red Peak design to the list of possible contenders, which will be put to a vote later this year.

The Red Peak failed to make the shortlist of four designs announced at the beginning of this month by an official panel, but the designs were criticized for their lack of variety. All four were inspired by the native silver fern.

Designer Aaron Dustin said the Red Peak’s diagonal design is based on traditional Maori weaving patterns, with the shapes suggesting a mountain landscape.

The geometric red, white and blue flag received a surge of support on social media and through an online petition signed by some 50,000 people.

Prime Minister John Key, who is known to favour a flag based on a silver fern, admitted that the Red Peak is not his favourite, but told media: “In the end I’m not wanting to be the one that stands in the way of people having some choice.”

New Zealanders will be able to rank the five designs in order of popularity in the first stage of a postal referendum late this year. The winning design will go on to a second vote in March 2016 to determine whether most people want to change to the new design or keep the existing flag.

The current flag features the British Union Jack and the four stars of the Southern Cross on a navy blue background. Advocates for a new flag say it represents New Zealand’s colonial past rather than what the country is today.

A recent poll found that 25 per cent of people wanted to change the flag after seeing the four shortlisted designs. Almost 70 per cent said they did not favour a change.

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